High Worsall: Modern English high + placename Wircheshel, Wercesel 1086, “Weorc’s nook of land”. Old English personal name Weorc, genitive singular Weorces + halh. The reference is to land in a bend of the River Tees.
Low Worsall: Modern English low + place-name Wercesal, Wirceshel, Werchesal(e) 1086 Wi- Wyrkesale 1285-1367, Wirsal (1316) 16th, 1369, Parva Worsall “Little Worsall” 1483.
See “The Cambridge Dictionary of English place-names” V.Watts (2004)
Under the heading “Land of the King” it says:
“In Wercesel (High Worsall), Altor and Alsige (had) 4 carucates for geld. Land for 2 ploughs.
In the other Wercesel (Low Worsall), Haward (had) 3 carucates for geld. Land for 2 ploughs.”
Under the heading “This is the Holding of Robert de Brus” it says that Robert had 3 carucates Low Worsall.
(A carucate was roughly 100 acres. Geld was a tax that had to be paid.)
Based on William Farrer’s translation in “The Victoria History of the County of York” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1912)
The de Brus family were the overlords of Low Worsall until 1272. In the 14th century, it was in the hands of the Thweng family, the heirs of the de Brus lords. The local lords of the manor, the subtenants of de Brus, were the Gowers. In the 15th century the Fulthorpe family were the lords of the manor.
In the Middle Ages, High Worsall was regarded as part of Northallertonshire. For this reason, before the Norman Conquest, it was part of the land of Earl Siward. King William Rufus granted Northallerton to William de St. Carileph, Bishop of Durham, and his successors. The bishops continued to be the overlords of High Worsall until 1553. The Hansard family were the local lords of the manor from the late 12th century until the early 14th century when it passed to the Setons and then to the Sayers. The Sayer family were still in possession in the late 17th century.
See “The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923)
An Early Mention
At the Stokesley Quarter Sessions of September 1622 the magistrates made an order for:
“A warrant &c. against a Low Worsall man &c. to answer for aiding the escape of a felon unknown, who took refuge in his house when followed by the Constable.”
An early mention in literature can be found in “The History of Cleveland in the North Riding of the County of York” J Graves (1808). Writing of Low Worsall, Graves said “this village, from its advantageous situation on the banks of the Tees, formerly enjoyed some share of trade, particularly in the exportation of lead, corn, and other produce of the country; for the reception of which large and commodious granaries, &c. were erected at a considerable expence, upon the banks of the river, which is navigable hither for small craft. The imports were timber and merchant goods, for Richmond, Bedale and other markets in the west. “
Writing of High Worsall, Graves added “we have reason to believe . . . from the numerous foundations of houses still visible in the grounds adjoining the present chapel, that High Worsall was, at a more early period, a place of greater importance. The chapel here, it seems, shared a similar fate with the village, and continued in ruins until about the year 1719, when the present humble structure was erected out of the remains of the former.”
The Lay Subsidy of 1301
This tax document refers to Low Worsall as “Parva Wyrkesale”. 14 householders were listed, but there were probably plenty of others who were exempt from paying this tax on movable goods. The list was headed by Master William de Wyrkeshale who paid almost 11 shillings. The total paid by the village was just under 47 shillings.
Derived from “Yorkshire Lay Subsidy” edited by W.Brown (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series) (1897)
Worsall Hall (early 18th century)
Worsall Grange (partly early 18th century)
Piersburgh Grange (formerly the Malt Kiln Inn, early 18th century, now a house)
All Saints church (1894)
A Few Lost Buildings
Low Worsall Manor (18th century) destroyed by fire in 1880.
The chapel of St. John at High Worsall (18th century) It stood as a roofed building in 1908 but now only ruins remain.
Village Hall (1964) demolished in 2008.
Some People of Note
Thomas Peirse (1709-1770) An entrepreneur who developed a new port at Low Worsall and named it Peirseburgh.
Christopher Richmond (1744-1796) A major in George Washington’s army who was born in Low Worsall and emigrated to America in his twenties. He died in Washington.
George Thomas Rudd (1794-1847) Rev. G.T.Rudd, vicar of Sockburn, lived at Worsall Hall. He was a noted naturalist, specialising in beetles.
Jane Procter (1810-1882) An educationalist from Low Worsall. With her sister she began a girls’ school at Polam Hall in Darlington. The sisters were also active in the Women’s Temperance Society.
The Hearth Tax of 1673
In the returns for 1673, there were 15 properties in “Lowe Worsall” that were eligible this tax. None of them were large houses: 6 of them had 2 hearths and the other 9 had just one hearth.
Based on “The Hearth Tax List for the North Riding of Yorkshire, Michaelmas 1673”, Ripon Historical Society (2011)
1801 105 (High Worsall) 165 (Low Worsall)
1851 130 (High Worsall) 171 (Low Worsall)
1901 59 (High Worsall) 178 (Low Worsall)
1951 52 (High Worsall) 146 (Low Worsall)
2011 279 (Low and High Worsall)
White’s Directory of 1840 described Low Worsall as “a picturesque village and township, containing 164 souls”. The directory named 2 blacksmiths, 2 shoemakers, a wheelwright, a carrier, 5 farmers and the Ship.
A Selection of Dates
1204 The cburch at High Worsall was said to be in existence.
1354 A deer park was established at High Worsall.
1401 The Sayer family became lords of the manor of High Worsall.
1569 A hundred horseman arrived at Worsall and arrested John Sayer who had taken part in the Rising of the Northern Earls.
1719 St. John’s church at High Worsall was rebuilt.
1732 Richard and Thomas Peirse began building warehouses, a quay and houses for workers at their new port which they called Peirseburgh.
1747 The Turnpike Road from Stockton to Barnard Castle was completed. It had a toll bar and toll bar cottage at Low Worsall.
1748 The North Riding magistrates ordered the demolition of a toll gate and toll house on the side road to High Worsall on the grounds that it was not authorised by Parliament.
1818 Peirseburgh was still shipping lead. 5,000 pigs of lead were in store at the warehouse in this year.
1839 A 17-ton ship the Rebecca was built at Peirseburgh.
1873 Low Worsall Church of England elementary school was opened.
1880 The Manor House at Low Worsall was destroyed by fire.
1885 The Wesleyan chapel was dedicated.
1894 All Saints church at Low Worsall was consecrated.
1896 The vicarage was built.
1909 A National Hunt Racecourse was established with a two mile course at a local farm. Races continued here until 1915.
1922 Worsall Women’s Institute was formed.
1934 Mains water came to the village.
1936 The cottages at Peirseburgh, often known as Low Town, were demolished.
1939 The last burial at High Worsall took place.
1950 The Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board built a pumping station at Low Worsall.
1953 Mains electricity was installed.
1962 Worsall School was closed.
1964 Worsall village hall was opened.
1997 High Worsall deserted medieval was excavated for three days for the television archaeology programme “Time Team”. The programme was broadcast in the following year.
2008 The village hall was demolished.
2009 The new village hall was opened by Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.
This list of dates was compiled using “High and Low Worsall: Milestones to the Millennium” (ed.) V.Targett (2000) and other secondary sources.
Suggested Further Reading
“The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding” vol.2 (ed.) W.Page (1923)
“Low Worsall: the Shipping and Trade of an Eighteenth Century “Port” on the River Tees”, P.Barton, Mariners Mirror, vol.55 (1969)
“A Journal Book Appertaining to Robert Richmond of Peirseburgh”, P.Barton, Bulletin of the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society vol.29 (1975)